Betty White: Superlatives from her Friars Club Roast
Betty White’s roast this afternoon was handled with more delicacy than most. After all, America’s adopted grandmother is 90 years old. That said, she’s still intimidating, considering her boundless energy and eighth-decade career resurgence. Indeed, even Uggie from The Artist showed signs of stage fright during an interview with roastmaster Barbara Walters. From the red carpet to the roasting dais, the stars mostly kept it clean for the beatific blonde, but never fear, PopWatchers. I’ll skip the sanitized bits and get right to the good stuff. Click through to find out who was best, worst, and most surprising at White’s roast.
Most pleasant surprise: Bethenny Frankel. That’s not to say the Skinnygirl’s jokes lacked bite. She ran down a list of things she and White have in common. Among them, alcohol: “I invented the Skinnygirl Margarita. She invented Prohibition.” Still, it was nice to see the reality maven use her razor tongue to get a laugh instead of to bust her husband’s balls. Even better, before Frankel even began, White asked to borrow youngster’s sky-high stiletto, pointed at the heel, looked at the audience, and improvised, “This is longer than most of the men here.” Zing!
Least pleasant surprise: Lisa Lampanelli. And I mean that as a compliment. The brassy comic, who was just fired from The Celebrity Apprentice, showed up unannounced to school the rest of the roasters on how an insult is really dished out.
Most cringe-inducing roast: I love The Office‘s Oscar Nuñez, but his out-of-nowhere jokes about how the last living Golden Girl is a racist abortion addict were met with uncomfortable silence. He would have done better to give White the same lap dance he gave to Sandra Bullock in The Proposal.
Go-to audience morale booster: Abe Vigoda reaction shots. Obviously.
Best topical references
— There were not one, not two, but three shout-outs to John Travolta’s recent sex scandal, the best of which was in a pre-taped bit by David Letterman. In his “Top 10 Little Known Facts About Betty White,” No. 4 was “Has been known to make inappropriate advances on male masseurs.”
— Joy Behar joked that Walters “tried to turn on [View panelist] Elisabeth Hasselbeck by dressing up as Mitt Romney” and “tying the family dog to the roof of the car.”
— Roast fixture Jeffrey Ross called White “the only person who truly saw Titanic in 3-D” and said that she thought 50 Shades of Grey was about her hair…down there.
Requisite Kardashian reference: About White’s Snickers Super Bowl ad, Ross quipped that he “thought Kim Kardashian was the only one who got famous for putting chocolate in her mouth.”
Oddest musical interlude: Liza Minnelli sang a penis-pun-filled riff on Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top.” That is all.
Classiest act: Walters. She summed it up best with her opening jab: “Yesterday, I was talking to the president of the United States. Today I’m talking to a bunch of second-rate comedians and a dog.” Walters stuck to “This is what it’s come to” eye rolls and dry-as-a-bone jokes over the tawdry topics that tend to populate these ceremonies. Speaking of which…
Least surprising joke trend: “Betty White is an old slut.” These words were never actually uttered, of course, but the writing was all over the wall. Not to say the jokes weren’t hilarious. Some highlights:
— Walters, in a rare copulation joke: “[Betty was] the first woman to do Shakespeare in the Globe Theater — literally, she did him in the balcony.”
— Hot in Cleveland costar Jane Leeves: “Betty is so old, she babysat Larry King. [Valerie Bertinelli on seeing King on the dais: “Oh, I thought he was a leftover Halloween decoration.”]
— Larry King: “Betty, at your age, it’s a fine line between a roast and a cremation…. Betty is so old, she remembers the first days of Pompeii. She’s so old, she thinks I’m jail bait.”
— Lampanelli: “Betty is a Renaissance woman — she was born in 1543…. On her first game show, the grand prize was fire.”
— Ross: “The Friars Club is the only place where Betty can meet older men. Who did your make-up? Tim Burton? Where do you shop? Forever 71?… More men have died on top of Betty [who had three husbands], than Mount Everest. Her tramp stamp is in Sanskrit.”
– Freddie Roman: “The Last Supper was the first roast you attended.”
Best passive-aggressive retaliation: Rounding out the ceremony, White skipped the traditional chance to fire back at her roasters (because Lampanelli “stole all [her] material”). Instead, she gave a grandma-appropriate speech, complete with backhanded compliments like, “I really had a good time…and I didn’t expect to.” Touché, Betty, touché.